Ambulance (2005)

When I realized the upcoming Michael Bay joint AMBULANCE was a remake of a 2005 Danish movie, I figured that meant it was probly a pretty good high concept film. The last time Jake Gyllenhaal starred in a remake of a limited location foreign language film it was THE GUILTY, which I had really enjoyed. So I rented an import DVD of AMBULANCE (Ambulancen), and it fulfilled my hopes.

I actually think the Bay movie looks potentially good, and it’s obviously gonna be very different – way bigger, way more expensive, way more pretty, way more complicated, way more blowing hot air about our great military heroes and what not. Seeing the elegant economy of this one actual makes the remake trailer seem more laughable… of fucking course they saw this and said “How can we get the War on Terror in here?” (If not “How do we get them out of this ambulance?”)

But that’s fine. However that one turns out, I’m glad it led to me to this really solid movie that uses simplicity to its great advantage. It doesn’t have to be epic to be a total rush.

It opens with two brothers with stockings on their faces agreeing to do this for Mother, and not to shoot anybody, and entering a bank. The camera stays outside with their car. We hear a siren in the distance – cops already? No, it’s the titular ambulance, arriving for some unrelated emergency down the block. But then a cop does come. And a gun goes off inside. They come out in a panic, aren’t able to get to their vehicle, run down the street and see that ambulance ripe for the taking.

So right away we’re in this high speed car chase. They figure out how to turn the siren on to get the traffic out of their way, though this also makes them even easier to follow. They figure out how to listen to the police band on the radio. Later they realize there’s a tracker in the dashboard, tear it out and throw it in the back of a cattle truck. Good one, boys.

They make it to the junkyard where they stashed the getaway car, and that’s when they realize there’s a sound coming from the back and— yeah, duh, should’ve checked that before. There’s a nurse back there and the guy they were picking up, ’cause he just had a heart attack. Fuck.

The older brother is Frank (Thomas Bo Larsen, ANOTHER ROUND), who previously did 8 years for 7 robberies and insists that he’s not going back to prison. But he really is doing this to get money for their mom, who has cancer and was told she has two weeks to live but might survive if they can move her to a private hospital. The younger brother Tim (Paw Henriksen, LOVE AND OTHER CATASTROPHES) is not a (previous) criminal and not as hardened but believes this is the right thing to do.

We get lots of problem solving and lots of interpersonal conflict. They tie up the nurse, Julie (Helle Fagralid), take her walkie talkie, take her phone and throw it out the window. But she says this patient (Torbjorn Hummel) needs help, he needs a doctor, he needs a hospital. They’re not gonna do that so she has to figure out how to help him on her own, in the ambulance. Tim lets her get instruction over the radio and helps her administer an adrenaline shot. After the rush of helping to save a man’s life he becomes more invested in his survival, and tries to convince Frank to let them drop him off at a hospital. But obviously he’s not gonna say yes to that. That that would do them in.

Julie warms up to Tim. This might be too much for some. Let’s chalk it up to Stockholm Syndrome, though. Or maybe the back of an ambulance is just a romantic space. I don’t know. At one point she gets left behind, so she doesn’t witness all the worst moments. One particularly tense scene is when they crash the ambulance on the side of a road and stumble out all bloody, and somebody stops and tries to help. Tim yells at him that he’s fine and not to call anybody and the guy is like, “But… but…” I’m not sure he understands what’s going on, but it’s not a good situation for a well meaning passerby to find themselves in.

Frank is less caring than Tim, more practical. Well, mostly. I don’t understand his decision to smear black paint all over the ambulance.

Yeah, great idea Frank – not conspicuous at all.

Makes it harder to spot by the military helicopter looking for them, I guess, maybe, but geez does it attract attention. It’s a total mess and still obviously an ambulance and being driven by two guys not wearing uniforms and with wounds on their faces. You’re staying with these guys for the whole movie so you kinda feel like you’re in that ambulance with them, and man do you feel nervous driving around with these idiots.

It’s all about the situations and the acting, it’s not real slick looking. And always overcast. The music (by Peter Peter, who also did the PUSHER trilogy, BLEEDER and VALHALLA RISING for Nicolas Winding Refn) includes some kinda cheesy dance music beats when they’re driving fast. And the flashiest thing in it is CG shots going inside the patient’s body to show his heart beating and stuff. Trying to do a David Fincher kinda thing, maybe. But it doesn’t need more than that. It’s a thrill ride in a “did you see that guy almost crash, that was crazy!” sort of way instead of an over-the-top Hollywood way. It works, and then it’s over in 71 minutes.

AMBULANCE is the narrative feature debut of director Laurits Munch-Petersen, who had done a bunch of shorts and a documentary before that. Now hopefully he’s rolling in that sweet Michael Bay movie money in case his mom has any medical problems or anything.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2022 at 7:03 am and is filed under Crime, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Ambulance (2005)”

  1. A few years ago my mother had a heart attack deep in the night and while I don’t wanna make light of the situation, sitting in the front passenger seat of an ambulance that drove full speed and with blue light and sirens through the dark city and even over the Autobahn for a bit, was seriously awesome. I had to restrain myself from sending a video of it to my friends.

    That said, I love the audicity of Hollywood watching a movie like this and thinking: “We turn this into the next Michael Bay movie!”

  2. The best part is that the Bay version is nearly twice as long as this one!

    But this sounds good and more like what I’d want from the premise– lean and focused.

  3. I’ve seen Bambulance (bay ambulance) as it came out a bit early in the UK.

    I think it’s one of Bay’s best films – overstuffed yes, ‘how do we get them out of the ambulance’ yes too – it’s very much a Bay film but him at his best really – some of the camera work – even accounting for drones – I couldn’t figure out how they pulled it off. Think there’s also drone shots in very tight spaces, with people in frame, that you don’t usually see.

    It’s also his least mean-spirited film maybe ever. It’s almost weird seeing a film from him where he seems to like some of the characters.

    It made me think that Bay films live and die on their lead casting – he needs actors who project a quiet intelligence even when they do and say dumb things, and people who are likeable (even when they do and say rude things). Gyllenhaal and YAM have both qualities to spare (whereas Reynolds’s cynicism in 6 Underground clashes with Bay’s cynicism). I think he needs people who cut against him a bit.

    I think Bay’s in an interesting spot commercially and I’m curious to see if Ambulance pays off for him. Blockbusters are more IP heavy than ever now and I think Transformers is the exception that proves the rule really, as he didn’t so much adapt the property and chew it up and spit it out – I can’t see Bay hopping onto any other property (or fans accepting it). In a weird way he might go from a symbol of what everyone hates in modern cinema to a shorthand for ‘hey, remember when the biggest films of the year were based on original ideas?’.

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets the vague sense that Michael Bay is returning from exile to save cinema from itself. He’s not the hero we want but he’s the hero we deserve.

  5. Weird how people suddenly think that Hollywood remaking a European movie, which basically is what they ever did (Francis Veber might be the richest French filmmaker, just based on the amount of remakes he got from Hollywood), is suddenly some kind of “fresh air” or “return to originality”.

  6. The moment when the cop on the Bay remake shows his Nolan Batman tech and goes “I can make a war from here” my jaw dropped. Some sequences reminded me of Tony Scott’s Deja Vu chase sequence

  7. I’ve also seen the Bay version over here in the UK, and I really liked it. Don’t really get the “War on Terror” comment above, as I don’t remember anything referencing that. Unless you mean in how Abdul-Mateen is an Afghanistan Vet, which is basically the modern equivalent of how 80s action movies would make someone a Vietnam Vet as a shorthand to the audience of why they’ve got combat skills. The movies “Bay tried to make the Michael Mann version of Fury Road”.

  8. I just meant because (at least in the trailer) he follows the WRATH OF MAN thing of these guys were in the war so they have the skills and the brotherhood and they deserved better so they’re taking it. I’m not saying it’s unnatural to put it in there, just that of course Michael Bay could not possibly make the movie without putting it in there. I look forward to seeing it.

  9. CJ, I hear what you’re saying.

    But when people complain about remakes and IP movies, they’re really complaining about Hollywood’s reliance on properties that the audience already knows and is familiar with and loyal to and has nostalgia for.

    There have always been plenty of movies based on books, or on movies that American or English-language audiences are probably not familiar with. DIE HARD, FIGHT CLUB, GONE GIRL, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, and several Hitchcock movies are all examples of movies that were adapted from books because those books seemed to have cinematic potential, not because they were marketable brand names at the time.

  10. Yeah, Hollywood’s IP addiction is shitty, but Americanized remakes of very recent, quality movies just because they’re foreign is an annoyance in itself. Of course, it’s given us some decent movies too, but still, probably for the best that we seem to be passing the days when Parasite would get a remake set in Chicago.

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